In any season, unless you lose half of your team suddenly, when you are 8-5 with control over your destiny and you lose your last three games to miss the postseason, it has to be a disappointment regardless of the circumstances that led up to your 13-game record.
That was the case for the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, who astoundingly weathered the loss of Ben Roethlisberger, and then the benching of Mason Rudolph, to bounce back from a 1-4 start to reach that point, on the strength of a 7-1 run in the middle of the year. They would have had control of the number five seed, and were even still in the running for the division at that time.
Instead, they have the 18th-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft—or they would have if they didn’t trade it to the Miami Dolphins. And that is thanks to an almost complete failure of the offense down the stretch, which had already bene doing the bare minimum.
“I’m very disappointed that we are 8-8. To me, that’s a regression from 9-6-1 the previous year”, general manager Kevin Colbert told Missi Matthews yesterday. “Neither was good enough to get us into the playoffs, and that’s the minimum for this franchise, is to qualify for the Super Bowl championship”.
“We’ll never lose sight of winning one is the ultimate goal, but if you don’t qualify [for the playoffs], you can’t win it. And that’s way below our standards. So I look forward to that challenge”. The Steelers have now missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons, and have not one a postseason game since 2016, when they reached the AFC Championship Game.
In spite of the fact that they finished with a worse record than they had the year before, however, and their second late-season collapse, Colbert did say that he is more optimistic about the next season this offseason than he was a year ago.
“I feel better about where we are moving into 2020 than I did in 2019, quite honestly, because I think the defense has a chance to be a significant defense as they proved going through the season”, he said, “and I think the offense can be better, obviously if we can our quarterback back up and running”.
Their quarterback, of course, is Ben Roethlisberger, who is recovering from elbow surgery. Colbert did not have any meaningful update on Roethlisberger’s status, and would not even confirm, once again, exactly the nature of the operation that he had. He was asked directly if he had Tommy John surgery and would not divulge.
There is reason for optimism as far as the defense is concerned goes, of course. There is nobody who should be falling off the cliff due to age this year, especially with Joe Haden coming off his best season in years, and several young players should be playing their way into better days. They will likely lose Javon Hargrave, but will also get Stephon Tuitt back from injury.